The bicameral conference committee was convened on June 10, 2014, and completed reconciling both Senate and Congressional versions of the Lemon Law, which passed third and final reading from both chambers.
Members of the bicameral conference committee for the Senate were Senators Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara and JV Ejercito, headed by Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino, while the House contingent was comprised of Reps. Maria Carmen Zamora, Anthony del Rosario, Rufus Rodriguez, as led by Rep. Mark Villar.
The two versions of the Lemon Law are House Bill No. 4082 and Senate Bill No. 2211: the measures being highly similar, they differed only on three major points.
The House version in particular embraces as State policy that “a motor vehicle is a major consumer purchase or investment. The consumer rights should thus be clearly defined including the means for redress for violations thereof”, while the Senate version was silent.
Also, the House version provides that “all disputes that have been submitted for mediation shall be settled not later than forty-five (45) working days from the date of filing of the complaint with the DTI”, while the Senate proposes a shorter period of ten (10) days; and the House version provides that, “in the event there is a failure to settle the complaint during the mediation proceedings, the parties may voluntarily enter into arbitration proceedings, likewise to be supervised by the DTI,” without imposing any period of time within which to conduct arbitration, the Senate provides that such proceedings must be done “within twenty (20) working days”.
The committee adopted the House version as the working version, and has reconciled the periods for dispute resolution, mediation and arbitration to adopt shorter time frames for the processes.
During the proceedings, Rep. Zamora brought to the attention of the committee the provisions of Sec. 9 of both bills. Sec. 9 specifically provides for the determination of reasonable allowance for use (RAFU), which is the amount deducted from the value of the non-conforming (lemon) vehicle in cases where it will be replaced or refunded.
"Currently, the determination of RAFU states that it is either 20% per annum deduction from the purchase price, or the product of the distance traveled in kilometers and the price divided by 100,000 kilometers, whichever is higher. We recommend that the last phrase be changed to 'whichever is lower', as this is more in keeping with the intention and the policy behind this proposal. This deduction should be weighed in favor of the consumer, consistent with our policy," said Rep. Zamora. The committee adopted the suggestion, amending the bill accordingly.
As the Lemon Law is considered a priority measure by both chambers, the Bicameral Conference Committee pushed for the recognition of motor vehicles as major consumer purchases as State policy.
This lays down the premise and anchors the policy in terms of consumer protection. With the bicameral conference approval of the Lemon Law, both chambers ratified the report and accepted amendments on June 10, 2014, paving the way for the bill’s enrollment for the President's signature. Barring a presidential veto, the Lemon Law will be finally enacted for the timely and necessary protection of motoring consumers.